Performance pay primer - design and implementation

According to Alan Odden (University of Wisconsin, CPRE), experience with implementing performance pay systems yields a number of recommendations for those considering this challenge:

  • An adversarial relationship with the union is a roadblock in the development of a performance pay system. A collaborative relationship is more likely to promote the level of communication and participation needed for a successful program.
  • Performance pay systems need to be grounded in an agreement on the nature of educational improvement and high-quality educational outcomes. The participants - teachers, administrators, school boards and other interested parties such as parents, students and community - must agree on the district mission and core values. It’s also very important to decide what behaviors and outcomes indicate a quality educational program.
  • Experience during the merit pay experiments in Oregon indicate that incentive bonuses must be substantial and consistently funded, but - Before anything can be implemented - there needs to be adequate financial backing for the performance pay system. If school boards wish to try it for a year, they only need to find a year’s worth of funding. However, if they want to commit to several years, they must have the resources in place before the program is initiated. To do otherwise can undermine the whole system because teachers will be less likely to support a system that may or may not yield the promised results.
  • There should be a sound evaluation and assessment system for both teacher behaviors and student performance. Student achievement performance rewards should be awarded on a group/building/district basis, not to individual teachers. Group awards limits the teacher competition to take the best students and builds staff into a cohesive, collaborative team rather than warring factions. It takes students out of a resource role and encourages everyone to work together.
  • Knowledge and skill performance elements should be related to the needs of the district and building. What is realistic for one group might not be to the next. Student scores might be higher for one group than the next, but overall improvement must be addressed.